Stop Separating Families at the Border

Last month, stories began to emerge of the heartbreaking circumstances many families are facing when they reach the U.S. border seeking asylum. The Trump administration has implemented a new policy causing children, some as young as one year old, to be separated from their parents. The parents are put into criminal proceedings, without being told where their children are, or when they will be reunited.

New policy is devastating and cruel beyond words

Every day this policy remains in effect, an estimated 66 children are separated from their parents. These families belong together, and if we lift our voices we can make sure our lawmakers work to ensure the safety of all children no matter where they come from.

We cannot be silent about this attack on fragile children and vulnerable families. We must speak. We must act.



Children separated from their parents, Dreamers in limbo, raids ripping apart families – President Trump’s agenda to systematically terrorize communities and hold children and aspiring Americans hostage is creating a crisis right in front of us – at the borders, at churches, schools, and workplaces.

Congressional Republican leaders are putting forward two inhumane bills crafted from Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant playbook – as the world watches in shock while crying babies are maliciously separated from their parents. Read the statement from NEA President Lily Eskelsen García on these two bills.

Call Congress & Tell them to Vote NO

Do Not Punish Innocent Children

Immigration issues are complicated. But some things are simple. Since the beginning of the immigration debate, the National Education Association has fought for a framework that has to include three simple things:

  • Do not punish children for decisions they didn’t make.
  • Do not separate families.
  • Provide a trusted path to citizenship for immigrant Dreamers.

The Center for American Progress released an issue brief in July 2018 detailing how Trump’s family detention plans would be detrimental to children’s mental, physical, and emotional health. As we continue to see the chaotic and slow reunifications of young children with their parents, this analysis makes it clear that “detention centers are not suitable or humane places for parents to care for their children.”




All students have the right to a free public K-12 education in this country regardless of their immigration status. NEA is actively engaged in numerous efforts to protect and advance that right and to ensure that all schools provide a welcoming and supportive environment to their entire school community. In recent months, many NEA members have been approached by students who are anxious about the termination of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and aggressive immigration enforcement.

Here are some legal parameters for educators to consider in safely and effectively advocating for immigrant students’ rights:

  1. Your protections are strongest when you engage in activism outside of work.
  2. Protections that apply to your speech at work are more limited
  3. Engaging in protests at school can be prohibited
  4. Congress has criminalized the harboring of undocumented immigrants

Read the full advisory for NEA members, including detailed descriptions of the four parameters listed above. In addition, the NEA, together with Education-Austin, has developed a PowerPoint training for educators that details how we can support immigrant students and their families.

I am going to the border. Here’s why

June 23, 2018
By Lily Eskelsen García
President of the National Education Association

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”-Bishop Desmond Tutu

On Sunday, June 24, I am going to Tornillo, Texas on the Mexican border, where Donald Trump has jailed innocent children. As an elementary teacher, as president of a union of educators dedicated to nurturing every student, as a mother, and as a Latina, I must bear witness to Donald Trump’s unimaginable cruelty and inexplicable inhumanity to children.

Any parent knows the panic of momentarily losing a child in the store, and most of us can remember being children ourselves and feeling the terror sweep over us when we can’t find Mom or Dad. That is after only a few minutes of separation. This what these tender-aged children, separated from parents who are seeking asylum, are feeling for weeks or months.  The terror these parents and their little ones are experiencing must be unbearable. 

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Even if the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other respected organizations had not issued statements about how damaging such family separations are, members of the NEA understand child development. We know that this is causing irreparable emotional and physical trauma to these boys and girls.

Our outrage is even more acute because all of this—every second of terror, fright, and worry in the lives of these children and parents—results from an intentional policy. A choice Donald Trump made.

We have heard this cruel administration and its enablers refer to child prisons like the one in Tornillo as ‘summer camps’ or ‘boarding schools.’  No one is fooled. Such ridiculous comparisons and asinine justifications simply increase our outrage at their callous, hateful treatment of desperate children. Summer camp is not a jail. This is a jail for children.

Don’t let Trump pull the wool over your eyes with his executive order to “end family separation.” To actually do that, the administration must end the zero-tolerance policy. As long as the prosecution of parents continues, family separation continues. Furthermore, the administration has created no plan to reunite the thousands of children separated from their parents.

I think the Stoneman Douglas students said it best, when speaking about their own tragedy: We appreciate thoughts and prayers, but they are not going to be enough. Our thoughts and prayers are certainly with these separated, incarcerated children. However, it will take much more for us to repair the damage and end this Trump-made disaster.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”-Desmond Tutu

We must act!

We must find every politician who’s running for office at any level and demand to know if they are going to protect families from Zero-Compassion policies. These children can’t vote, but we can. And we will!

This terrible tragedy is of Donald Trump’s making, but just as it takes a village to raise a child, it took a particular Trumpian village to imprison these children and then justify it. It took the complicity of people around him who were willing to do his bidding. They created the blueprint to enact his horrible policy and then blithely defended him and themselves.

History will judge and condemn those who separated families and incarcerated children. Toddlers. Babies. The names of their jailers will forever be recorded in the worst chapters of the American story—a story that belongs to each of us, a story that we write with the actions we take, as well as those we fail to take. The culprits will surely be remembered. And so, my friends, will we.

Yes, it took a twisted village to create this crisis. But we will be the village to save these children and families. We will not fail them and we will not lose. We will not abandon any of these blessed children.

If we do not act now, then when will we? The question is no longer, “Who is Donald Trump?” It is: “Who are we?”

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Take Action

Families Belong Together

The Trump administration has been cruelly and systematically criminalizing immigration and immigrants. Join us on June 30 to send a clear message to Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans.



Tools for Educators

All students have a right to enroll in U.S. public schools, regardless of immigration status. Whether you’re an educator, a student or a family member of a Dreamer, it’s vital to know your rights.

Learn More

Safe Zone Schools

Find out how to make your schools and school districts Safe Zones for immigrant students. View an interactive map to see which school districts have passed or are considering Safe Zones policies.

Put Your School District on the Map

ACLU: 'We Have Rights'

The ACLU has a series of videos based on true stories offering advice on what to do when ICE is outside our doors, in our homes, stops us in our communities, and/or arrests us.

Watch the Videos